It may be difficult to think that the guy with the knife in the video was defending himself, but I am willing to bet that he thought he was.


In light of our ongoing Whatsapp chap about the video that shows that fatal stabbing, I just wanted to get this out there.

I have spoken of this so often to so many students both past and present, but it really needs repeating, because it is still so grossly misunderstood.

In the Martial Arts Community, there is great disagreement about what style is good for fighting and what style is not good for fighting.

And then there are conflicting opinions about what style is a fighting art and what style is a self-defence system.

This is blown out of all proportion by the fact that most people do not fully understand the difference between fighting and self-defence.

Especially when it comes to understanding {and admitting that we are training in}, a self-defence system.

I grew up in post-war Britain, every grown-up in my world potentially suffered from P.T.S.D. All had experienced the horror of war in one way or another and it shaped their worldview.

As a 5 to 7-year-old boy the advice I was given was that if you get into an disagreement, scuffle, or argument hit the other guy before he hits you.

This, was self-defence in the 1950s.

And it worked for me.

This was pretty much how things carried on deep into the 1990s.

And it still worked for me.

Now, 30 years on in the 2020s, we are a society that is better informed and more connected, we understand that hitting someone first may be a savvy tactical decision, but it is not Self-Defence, right-here right-now, it is, in fact, assault.

Later on it can be argued in court.

We all recently viewed that tragic -48 second video were a young mans life ended in a S.N.A.F.U. of a shit fight before a punch had landed.

The attack itself took less than -2 seconds.

I have been in this kind of standoff, in a situation like this both sides see this as a self-defence situation.

We cannot be sure how the agro in the video kicked off because we do not witness the build-up, but it is safe to assume that words were exchanged, that is usually the case, and then both sides felt the need to defend their assumed position.

Their ethnicity, their territory or even just their football team.

In many ways, it was ignorance that led to this tragic outcome.

A few of you have asked if we can look at this in training, and I am sure that there are many students of multiple styles of Martial Arts that are asking their teacher a similar thing.

We need to go deeper than “What would we as {insert chosen M.A. Style} practitioners do in this situation”?

To everyone out there and not just our mob, what do you think your chosen style is teaching you?

Is it teaching you to fight people, or is it teaching you to defend yourself?

It may be difficult to think that the guy with the knife in the video was defending himself, but I am willing to bet that he thought he was.

Over the years I have asked every student to imagine a situation where they would be called upon to use their training.

To a man {generic} it is always a situation where an argument or some other anti-social behaviour turns physical.

It is usually described this way… ‘we were arguing and then he {generic} suddenly thew a punch, my training kicked in and I just reacted.’

Is this self-defence?

This is such a grey area, it is nothing short of a slippy slope on a foggy night. Excuse the poetic viewpoint.

Despite the oft-used cliche´, ‘always expect the unexpected’ in truth we all know that we cannot expect the unexpected, so if we can react to a sudden attack without surprise then on some level we were expecting it.


I am not trying to take some moral stance here with this post, if this was me 30 years ago I would have already hit the guy first and asked questions later.

But it is not 30 years ago.

Can we claim self-defence if we are waiting for the attack?

If we are not trying to de-escalate the situation, even if it is not our intention, we are allowing it to escalate.

We are now preparing to fight this person and not defend ourselves.

I can almost hear the young offender from the video saying ‘it was a slippy slope on a foggy night, your honour’.

The most important aspect of Martial Art is to try to understand violence, not to learn how to use violence, and not to learn how to choose violence.

At least not as a first choice.

In the original Karate Kid movie, Mr. Miyagi says “best defence, don’t be there”.

If we see it coming and do not avoid it, are we defending ourselves?

Or are we waiting to join in?

If I am arguing with someone and I sense that it might kick off why am I still there?

Yes, there are most definitely times when we will not expect it, this is self-defence, how to go from the ‘Oh Shit” moment of just sticking our arms out and into something that can make good our escape.

We will work on this, the ‘Oh Shit” moment, and not on how to defend against a knife.

I just wanted to get this out there, especially as we were all talking about the stabbing.




  1. Hi Derek, I have been involved in two other schools and have not had a situation like this explained in this manner. Very enlightening. Cheers for a great post.



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